Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Philosophy ≠ Metaphysics or Ontology

Many modern scientists misconceive philosophy as being just metaphysics or ontology. Philosophy is not metaphysics nor ontology; metaphysics and ontology are a part of philosophy. This is the proper division of the sciences:

  1. Speculative Sciences
    1. Natural Sciences
    2. Mathematics
    3. Metaphysics
  2. Practical Sciences
    1. Art
    2. Prudence
Instead of this hierarchy of the sciences, Christian von Wolff (1679-1754) proposed his own. He inverted the proper division of the sciences by identifying metaphysics (ontology) as philosophy itself and placing it first:

  1. General Metaphysics (Ontology)
  2. Special Metaphysics
    1. Metaphysics of Bodies
    2. Metaphysics of Spirits
      1. of Created Spirits
      2. of Uncreated Spirits
Resulting from this erroneous division of the sciences is the modern separation of natural (now conceived as "naturalistic") and philosophical (now conceived as "ontological") sciences. Humans by nature start with imperfect sense knowledge and gradually build up to more perfect knowledge, not the other way around as Wolff would suggest. Why? Cf. Romans 1:20, which says that we must first start with sense knowledge—from the physical world, God's creation—before proceeding to knowledge further from the senses—such as God Himself. St. Paul does not say, as Wolff would: "[T]he creation of the world from the invisible things of him are clearly seen, being understood by the things unmade." Rather, he says:
[T]he invisible things of him [e.g., His ontology] from the creation of the world are clearly seen [i.e., with our imperfect knowledge from the senses], being understood by the things that are made [e.g., the physical world].

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